Main Street maintenance deal hits a pothole


Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:45 p.m.

Several months after the resurfacing and narrowing of Main Street south of Eighth Avenue was completed, disagreement over the project is percolating among county commissioners.

The fresh debate focuses on a years-old arrangement for the county to take over maintenance of the stretch of Main Street from Williston Road to Depot Avenue because the Florida Department of Transportation said the more-narrow roadway no longer meets the standards to be a state road.

Because of that, Alachua County years ago assumed ownership of the stretch of Main from Williston north to University Avenue. But the maintenance arrangement, which a majority approved 3-2 in 2004, is not a done deal.

At Tuesday's County Commission meeting, Public Works staff brought the maintenance agreement forward for a vote because the FDOT, in auditing its records, found there was no formal agreement in place, said Michael Fay, the Public Works department's development program manager.

Fay described it as a "housekeeping" matter — one made somewhat more complicated because of an indemnification clause FDOT included in the agreement.

But as it turned out, the agreement was not approved, and the indemnification clause was not the reason.

Down to four members after the resignation in December of Rodney Long, commissioners appeared headed for a 2-2 deadlock Tuesday and delayed the vote. Mike Byerly and Paula DeLaney were in favor, and Lee Pinkoson and Susan Baird opposed.

A prior budget projection, which has to be updated, had maintenance costs to the county of approximately $160,000 annually, Public Works Director Rick Hedrick said Tuesday.

Pinkoson noted that he voted against the arrangement back in 2004 and did not believe the county's gas tax monies should go toward the maintenance of a stretch of roadway within the city limits of Gainesville.

Byerly countered that a majority of the board agreed to do that back before construction started.

"That was the deal that we had," Byerly said.

"That wasn't the deal I had," Pinkoson responded.

DeLaney and Byerly said they believed that, by not approving the agreement, commissioners were backing out on prior pledges to FDOT and the city of Gainesville — two government entities they need to work with on many transportation issues.

"Well, I would say don't be surprised to see all our money go to Jacksonville when we go to the MTPO (Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization)," DeLaney said of FDOT road funding in the wake of the decision.

Seated as the MTPO, a prior set of county commissioners and city commissioners first requested in 1999 that the state's resurfacing of Main Street include narrowing the roadway from Depot Avenue north to Eighth Avenue in the area of downtown.

The road went from two lanes in each direction to one lane each way, with a center turn lane, on-street parking and bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks.

Because FDOT said the more narrow road no longer met standards to be a state road, a series of deals was made for maintenance and ownership.

The county now owns the stretch from Williston Road to University Avenue, while the state still owns the roadway north of University, Gainesville Public Works Director Teresa Scott said.

Scott said the city maintains the county-owned stretch from Depot to University and the state-owned portion from University to Eighth Avenue.

While debate over the pros and cons of narrowing the roadway has been waged for more than a decade and continues on, there also was some confusion over which local government would have to assume ownership. Fay said state officials initially told the county in 1999 that the road could be transferred only to the county — not the city. Then in 2004, county commissioners were told that the city could take ownership and county staff recommended that ownership of the road be transferred to the city.

But in a 3-2 vote in December 2004, county commissioners reaffirmed the position of taking over ownership, with Long, Byerly and DeLaney in favor.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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